Recently, there have been a lot of articles with screaming headlines about a lost year of education. “How will the students catch up?”, “What does this mean for their future?” are common titles. This has been a difficult year for many while others have embraced a new way of learning and doing. I want to assure you, students have not lost a year, it has just been different. They have learned different things.
Maybe a better question would be “how have students spent their time?” Being at home with families, have they had to participate more as a connected unit? Have they taken care of younger siblings more often? Spent concern over grandparents? Learned to make meals? Learned how to spend time alone?
In school, they have learned to navigate multiple tools and resources using technology, managed multiple classes online, many transitioned back into a classroom with very different expectations from when they left. These are all important lessons learned by students this year, teaching them life lessons such as organization, flexibility, leadership, self-motivation, responsibility, self-control, and grace towards others.
Some students had difficulty connecting with school online, but sadly, that can be the case in a building also. Some of those students thrived in this environment, while some traditionally strong students floundered without the building structure. Reflecting on all these responses to a non-traditional year can be its own lesson about who we are and how we learn.
During all this, they have also been exposed to endless information on disease and the spread of a pandemic. They have observed protests, both peaceful and violent, in response to issues of social justice. They have experienced an election and observed the transfer of power from one party to another. They have been learning through all of this.
This has not been a lost year for anyone who was participating on any level. We will all have our own stories to share, our own experiences to internalize, our own lessons learned. This will become a part of us, and help inform our students as they move forward into what we can only hope will be a more compassionate and empathetic space for everyone as we venture back out into the world from our pandemic year.